NASA’s TRW-built
Aqua Earth Observing System (EOS) spacecraft is progressing smoothly through
on-orbit checkout and activation following its successful launch on May 4 at
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Aqua is the newest in TRW’s spacecraft line
designed for environmental research and operational remote sensing missions.

A highlight of Aqua’s checkout and activation to date is the deployment
and powering-up of the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS
(AMSR-E), perched at the leading edge of the spacecraft. A conical spinning
reflector, AMSR-E is rotating at partial speed with no disruption to the
spacecraft and will shortly reach its operational speed of 40 RPM. A NASA-led
team of ground controllers, including TRW representatives at
Goddard Space Flight Center, will continue testing Aqua’s systems, sensors and
software, until the satellite becomes fully operational in a few months.

“TRW is looking forward to the many productive years Aqua will be
on-orbit, providing data to help scientists understand the intricacies of the
Earth’s water cycle,” said Tim Hannemann, president and chief executive
officer, TRW Space & Electronics. “Aqua’s picture-perfect performance so
early in its orbital life validates the teamwork of NASA, TRW, launch vehicle
and instrument providers as well as ground system operators. We are bringing
the knowledge gained building Aqua to Aura, the next in NASA’s Earth Observing
System missions and to future missions such as the National Polar-orbiting
Operational Environmental Satellite System.”

Aura is based on the same T-300 spacecraft bus design and has many
components in common with Aqua, enabling TRW’s experienced workforce to build
it at a lower cost and with greater efficiencies than its sibling. Aura will
host four science instruments designed to conduct research on the composition,
chemistry and dynamics of the Earth’s upper and lower atmosphere.

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